Sundance, Day 1
This article was originally part of the Insider Cinema guide to Hollywood, a website from the mid-2000s. We are reposting it here as both a writing sample and a guide for those seeking to get their foot in the door in Hollywood.
Well, I learned my first lesson early in the Sundance bonanza; don’t fly Delta. I had scheduled an early morning flight out of Long Beach airport to save a little money, but when I arrived, the Delta operations people were in shambles, and could not have been less organized. The front desk and customer service woman was rude and could not keep her head on straight. The plane was 20 minutes late boarding, and the vehicle was so small that I had to ask myself, “Is that really a plane?” Then they had a “weight overage issue” which basically meant they were randomly throwing off passengers and luggage, and they damaged some articles of luggage after only holding them for 20 minutes. Then because the plane was too small to handle the incremental weather in Salt Lake, there was a 3-hour delay. During which time, Delta would not even give out meal vouchers to the stranded passengers. Don’t fly Delta.
When I arrived at Sundance on Monday, things were already up to a feverish pitch. The Weinstein Company and HBO had already made a joint deal to distribute the Roman Polanski documentary, Polanski: Wanted and Desired, and a major snowstorm had cast 4 inches onto the rustic Park City. At the opening press conference, the festival’s father, Robert Redford, said that this year’s filmmakers marked a new age in the film, “They don’t want to inherit anything. They want to do new things. And that’s exciting.” Rather than the classic post-modern filmmakers that gave us great hits like Star Wars, Pulp Fiction, and The Blair Witch Project, this new generation is determined to bend, and even break genres, rejecting the Hollywood that they are inheriting, and causing a revolution. We’ll see how successful they are.
After settling in with my lodgings, I immediately hit the semi-world famous Main Street. Bustling crowds walked up and down the steep boulevard, and as always, it was a place that showed locals in middle America, still appreciated great cinema. I spoke with Ted Orr, who made it a point to bring his family to the Sundance Film Festival. I asked him if the popularity of Sundance had affected its mystique, to which he said, “Only somewhat, but Sundance still has that great atmosphere, where you can come, relax, and see a great movie. It’s still a relaxed atmosphere where people can ski, and you can see the stars in jeans and t-shirts, and people won’t bother them.”
I enjoyed the day with a variety of activities: enjoying the technological pieces of artwork by Daniel Rozin; speaking with Iranian filmmaker David Diaan about his conflict separating his heritage from his artwork, and smoking out of an apple bong with one of the filmmakers of the Slamdance hit Fix.
Yes, an apple bong.
I even got to shake hands with Colin Firth, and the distinguished character actor Mark Boone Junior, who was there for the premiere of his film, Frozen River. When I asked why he signed on to the project, he said, “Because it was a fucking good script, and really well-executed, and that’s something that’s hard to find these days.”
I ended the day with a midnight screening of the Slamdance entry, Trailer Park of Terror. Whatever you think it is from the title, you’re right, and even more so. It’s a scintillating, and spectacular achievement in gore, paying homage to the classic Rockabilly and monster movie genres. It will keep you enthralled through every gory detail, and leave you breathless. The director, Steven Goldmann does a good job by employing talented actors, who will make you ask, ‘Where do I know that guy from?’
I was able to ask Mr. Goldmann a few questions in private:
RT: Why did you want to make this movie?
SG: It was an opportunity to be 15 again. At first, there was just an anthology of comics and the characters of Norma and Marv, and then we just ran with it. It was so much fun because I’ve always been a fan of classic horror movies, zombies, rockabilly, and Elvis, and it was great to combine all of those. Plus, I had a family-friendly reputation up until now, and every time I wanted to do something dark and fun, people kept saying, ‘Oh, but he’s too nice.’ I kind of wanted this film to destroy my reputation.
RT: What was the shoot like?
SG: It was insane. We did everything on an 18-day schedule.
RT: Holy crap! How did you incorporate so many effects and elaborate make-up pieces into 18 days?
SG: A lot of planning. We storyboarded almost everything. We didn’t storyboard to the N’th degree, because I wanted to leave some flexibility for the actors to breathe life into these unique characters, but I would say we storyboarded 80% of the film. Towards the end of the shoot though, we were running 3 sets at once, and I was frantically running around on a golf cart, talking with people about how I wanted the shots to be developed. Looking back on it, I see it as an out-of-body experience. I still don’t know how we got it done.
RT: How did you work with your crew?
SG: The crew was great and incredibly organized. We were fortunate that a lot of them had worked together before on Nip Tuck, and knew how to move quickly. I also cannot say enough good things about the cast. With the exception of Nichole [Norma], all the actors were authentic southerners, and I wanted to make a monster film that was uniquely southern; that played to their sensibilities without mocking them. Even though I grew up in Canada, I lived in Nashville for nine years, and I have a deep connection, and respect for the South.
As of the publication of this article, Trailer Park has not been spoken for, but the week is still early.
My first day of Sundance had ended well, with a quiet sky, a chill in the air, and rumors abound that buyers are slowing down on their purchases and that HBO Pictures and HBO Documentaries is waiting in the wings to scoop up several last-minute pieces. Who will walk away with the Sundance crown?
Only time will tell.
Celluloid Dreams acquires international rights
Domestic rights are still available, and pic is being repped by William Morris Independent
The Black List: Volume One
HBO acquires all rights
Polanski: Wanted and Desired
The Weinstein Company acquires all foreign rights for mid-six figures
HBO Documentary acquires all domestic U.S. rights
Up the Yangtze
Zeitgeist Films acquires all rights
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